Fisher on a tree- US Fish and Wildlife (public domain)

Fishers are sometimes referred to in common vernacular as Fisher Cats, but they are not felines. Nor are they prone to fishing. They have dark brown fur and a long furry tail 12 to 16 1/2 inches long. They have semi-retractable claws for climbing. Fishers are members of the weasel family and have the same long thin body type, although Fishers are stockier and heavier than typical weasels. They weigh 3 to 18 lbs.

Fishers range through New England and much of southern Canada. The species was largely erradicated in Connecticut because of habitat loss and over-trapping by the 1900's. As former Connecticut farmlands have returned to a wooded state, the Fisher naturally began to expand into the northeastern parts of the state again. Northwestern Connecticut was isolated from any Fisher populations. The Connecticut DEEP reintroduced Fishers caught in NH and VT to this part of the state to return the animal to its natural range throughout the Connecticut ecosystem. They are now doing well in the entire state. Fishers prefer dense forested habitat but are found in wooded residential areas. They are primarily nocturnal and are active year-round.

Fishers hunt small animals such as mice, voles, birds, squirrels, rabbits, snowshoe hares and chipmunks. Where they have moved into residential areas they can eat outdoor domestic cats or small dogs, but these are not favorite prey animals. Some researches believe they eat far fewer cats than they are rumored to, and credit more cat kills to coyotes, foxes or owls. (It doesn't matter to the cat what eats it, it is best to keep small pets indoors.). Fishers are one of the few predators that successfully hunt the porcupine. They constantly circle porcupines, who try to keep their quill-covered backs towards the threat, and lunge in to bite the un-quilled face and head whenever possible. They can eventually wound and wear down a porcupine this way and feed by flipping the porcupine over and eating from the un-quilled belly. One porcupine kill can keep a fisher well-fed for up to a month. Fishers will also eat carrion and some fruit.

Fishers produce a litter of 2 to 4 young in March and April. Breeding season is about a week and a half after the kits are born. The female will leave the den to find a mate. After breeding she returns and raises that year's litter. Embryos form from this spring mating, but implantation in the uterous is delayed for 10 or 11 months. A spring mating produces the young for the following spring. Fisher females raise their babies without assistance from the father and are not monogamous.

Fisher are solitary. They den most often in tree cavities to bear young. They use temporary dens for resting on their frequent movements throughout their territories. Descriptions of territories range from 10 to 100 square miles, and probably depend on location and food availability. Territories can overlap, and Fishers scent-mark their territorries using "posts" such as small trees that are rubbed, rolled, urinated and defecated upon. They are strong climbers and often seek prey in the trees. Fishers will arch their backs and hiss, growl and spit when threatened.

Neat Fact

Fishers are often blamed for a nighttime sound like a scream, repeated at regular intervals. Heard in the night it can be rather eerie. However, this vocalization is a call made by the red fox. (See the Red Fox entry for audio of this call). In reality, fishers do not vocalize very much.